April 15, 2014

Editorial: Heed open-burning regulations

After the seemingly endless winter of ice, snow, winds and below-zero temperatures, the warmer weather this week comes as a respite to those tired of the agonizing cold.

The remaining wetness in neighborhoods and forests is drying up quickly as the sun, wind and warmth do their best to make athletic fields playable and lawns cleanable.

Folks will start raking lawns and cleaning up debris quickly; it’s a seasonal process. Generally, disposal of the dried leaves, grass and other material becomes another matter.

But before you put a match to that leaf pile, think about this: Along with the moderate weather comes an increased fire risk due to dry grasses and leaves.

That’s the reason why the state Department of Environmental Conservation has banned residential brush burning through May 14. And the agency has serious data to back up its concern.

The state adopted tougher restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air-pollution emissions.

And they have obviously worked.

Fire department data from across the state for 2010-2013 shows a 56 percent reduction in wildfires during the burn-ban period for these years as compared to the previous five years. Additionally, 80 percent of all communities across New York had a reduction in the number of fires, compared to the previous 10 years, according to a DEC press release.

The brush-burning ban applies to towns with fewer than 20,000 residents, which means it affects every town in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.

Violators of the state regulation are subject to both criminal- and civil-enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report someone burning in your town, call (800) 847-7332 or report online at

Open burning of debris is the largest single cause of wildfires around the state. It doesn’t take much to get them going.

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